Although two weeks is longer than a typical trip to one European city, I don’t think you can ever truly experience a destination without living there or having a local show you where the real hidden gems are. I do intense research before heading somewhere new so I can find venues beyond the standard tourist traps but I also try to get lost so I can find my own recommendations. The below are the spots I would’ve lived in were I to ever become a resident of Rome.
La Proscuitteria Trevi for Casual Charcuterie
Danielle from Beirutista sent me to this meat haven tucked in behind the Fontana di Trevi. After waiting in line next to a La Dolce Vita poster with Sylvia wielding a T-bone in the air, we got a teeny table in the back of a butcher-turned-wine bar for a wooden slab of cold cuts, cheese, a basket of bread, and Chianti red wine. Let’s just say that this meal was not one that would’ve been approved by my dietician but let’s also say that I don’t regret being a rebel for one second. For 20Euros each, we had plenty to feast on and extras to take home for snacking on later.
Bead Shop Rome for Murano Glass Jewelry and Souvenirs
Rankoussi, shop owner and artisan, is a Syrian glass blower specializing in the Phoenician and Murano glass craft. He gives workshops and does in-store demos every Tuesday but gave my friend & I a quick show and made a mini blue eye. I’m guessing this had a lot to do with me asking where he was from and him replying, “I am from the Middle East and you are also from there.” International wasta FTW. Rankoussi gave us a brief history lesson of his work, told us the origin story of certain beads and their cultural significance, and took selfies with us in his technicolor wonderland.
Sant’Eustachio Il Caffe for Cappuccino and Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans
Fun fact: there is no Starbucks in Rome. But who needs it when, across from the Sant Eustachio church and behind the Pantheon, this cafe from the thirties serves all the caffeine-lovers favorites. Urbanista does a good job here in Lebanon but cappuccinos will never be the same after Rome. Sant Eustachio’s grand cappuccinos set me back 2.90 Euros each visit. They’re pricier than other little vendors but, in comparison to the hotel’s watered down black American, I happily paid it. Maybe it’s because they mix it with water from an ancient aqueduct – how very Roman. The workshop faculty suggested their chocolate covered coffee beans which are delectable and come in bright yellow packages with a stag in their branding so naturally I adored them as mini gifts for my peeps back home.
Barnum Cafe for an Espresso/Prosecco-Filled Remote Office
I’ve never been smitten with a cafe. I spent a couple of days working at a communal table that had an old bourbon bottle centerpiece filled with lavender. The bartenders were friendly and warmed up to my friend & I because we were singing along to all the great tunes from the early 2000s. I had wondered if I had finally found the place where my iPod Classic disappeared to, then we get a Vanilla Ice dedication, and I’m thinking, “Ah shit, I’m never leaving. I am moving to Rome for a coffee shop.” They have a no computers after 7:30pm rule though because it morphs into a bar, which is fine because I’d get a good 3 hours of work done beforehand as my espresso would transition into Prosecco. Order the tiramisu, it comes in a coffee mug topped with glazed hazelnuts.
Osteria da Fortunata for Fresh Pasta in Campo di Fiori
Nonnas make the pasta right there near the tables so you know you’re not getting any of that stiff packaged stuff being sold on every corner. I’m not a pasta fan but when it’s fresh, it has a completely different texture on the palate. The cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) plate was the only serving of pasta I ordered during my entire two weeks and it’s all I needed. Take that mac & cheese.
Honorable Mention: If you’re at Barnum and still need to work post 7:30pm, you can walk over to Circus which is another work-friendly cafe. There’s lots of teeny boppers hanging out and music gets loud but they don’t mind if you don’t. And the waiter has a human Gus Gus-from-Cinderella quality to him so you can’t help but smile. They’re open till 2am.